Sailor Moon is… sexist?

I heard an interesting comment today, that both the Sailor Moon cartoon and manga (comic) are sexist. I totally agree that the original television show was sexist. Sailor Moon’s creator, Takeuchi Naoko, has even pointed it out, and expressed disappoint in the the way Sailor Moon was dominated by male writers and animators. But to say that the manga is sexist, Takeuchi-san’s original, untouched vision of real women, is insulting.

The television show sports super short skirts, portrayed these women as whiny babies, and even went as far as to make it seem like they couldn’t survive without the male character Tuxedo Mask. The show’s only redeeming quality, for me at least, is that epic Japanese opening theme.

The manga however, understands that these young women are just that – young women. They are fourteen at the beginning of the story, and so they are dressed more modestly than the cartoon. The romance between Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru and Sailor Moon/Usagi takes ten volumes to become a serious, solid relationship. The couple is portrayed as partners, who need each other, rather than Tuxedo Mask always having to rescue Sailor Moon. And while Usagi may be the moon princess, the other sailor scouts are not mindless followers, they are protectors, and they have no problem taking charge when need be. The comic is much bloodier than the show too, so these women don’t go around whining, they give and get a lot of slicing and dicing.

With the exception of Sailor Pluto, all of the sailor scouts are Japanese. Even though the story lacks more racial diversity, Takeuchi-san portrays several different kinds of women. Sailors Uranus and Neptune, for example, are lesbians, and in a committed relationship with each other. The Sailor Star Lights are transgender. Sailor Mercury has an enormously high IQ, Sailor Mars is intuitive and religious, Sailor Jupiter is athletic, and Sailor Venus is a warrior. But it doesn’t stop there! These characters have so personality and depth, that I could write a whole blog entry about just one sailor scout.

If you ask anyone on tumblr who Sailor Moon is, most folks will respond with “the most powerful woman in the cosmos”. It’s a bit dramatic, and the story itself never says that, but that’s basically the gist of it. Despite the incredible bond between Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon, he respects her strength, her willpower and her love of her people. He knows that he is not like her, and he strives to be as strong as her. How many stories have you encountered where a male character looks up to a woman?

I actually researched this a bit, and discovered that the body types and art style in the manga have also been criticized as sexist. Apparently these women are too thin, and thus misrepresent how real women look. If you are a feminist, and you believe in eliminating sexist thinking, then why do you have such an intense focus on the body type? If you don’t want women to be seen as sex toys, then don’t focus on their appearance! Most of Takeuchi’s characters, even the men, are drawn with large faces, elongated limbs, and other exaggerated features. This is an art style, which is very common for an artist to have. Some of the women, however, like Sailor Uranus, have a more masculine build, and Sailor Neptune is not as thin as the other characters. Sailor Pluto altogether does have a very different look in comparison to the other characters. Again, this is an art style.

The only thing that is unrealistic about this series (besides it being a science fiction/fantasy genre), is that all the women get along fairly well. For the plot, I suppose they have to, or else the universe is doomed if they don’t work together. But that is something that men are much better at, because women love to attack and compete with other women. Especially attacking Takeuchi Naoko, for her story and her art. That’s a pretty low blow, and it’s not even clear exactly what these feminists want. Should she re-write the entire manga with women who are drawn overweight, in pants or knee-length shorts, no make-up, and a masculine build? What exactly does a woman have to be, in order to be a woman?

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